by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
16th March, 2009
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The flight to Malawi is tonight and I’m in the office prepping the kit. Had my rabies injection this morning so hopefully I’ll be frothing and barking like a mad dog in a few hours.

…now where did I put that XLR cable?

The First Day

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
19th March, 2009
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The first proper day of filming and it now feels like we are getting in to the flow of things. The day began with rain (and a few bolts of lightning) lashing down everywhere. I didn’t realise that it rained so much in Africa. We were all a bit down in the morning;


Marc was losing his mind (see the picture) and I also think that the Malarone tablets for malaria are starting to take their toll. But as soon as Luke arrived in the afternoon our spirits were lifted and when we hit the road in the 4×4 (which has a personality all of its own – security alarm banging out whenever you turn it on, 3rd gear being more powerful than 1st or 2nd, black smoke pumping out of the exhausts etc. etc.) the sun came out of hiding.

Luke had prepared a piece to camera on the long flight over and wanted to get stuck into it straight away. Unfortunately the decision was made to film it whilst he was driving and after the fiftieth take we ended up at the Malawi Army Barracks out of town – in a nutshell we were completely and utterly lost. His opening piece was good though and we later worked out that we’d recorded the first minute of the programme – only another forty-three to go…

In an attempt to find our way back we drove around in circles grabbing a few beautiful shots of Malawi in the process. Eventually we made it to the Wildlife Sanctuary (our primary base over the course of the shoot) in order to meet Lee (the manager) and Richard (the vet). Unfortunately there was no one there to greet us. We had arrived an hour late. Oh dear… The next few days should be packed full of great stories and can’t wait for it to start, although I do want to avoid the caged Leopard – I swear it was checking me out as a future meal.

Van Damme’s Vet Adventures

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
21st March, 2009
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Spent the day filming in a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe to highlight the good work that the LSPCA and RSPCA International perform. The day was great in terms of filming. However, a dog died during Luke’s first spay operation of the day – a procedure that he has performed hundreds of times before.

It was a big downer and raised questions in my head over the brevity of life. Humans are animals at the end of the day and we could be gone like that. For me personally it was extremely difficult to film Luke talking about the death of the dog, but I also think that it is essential to show both the good times and the bad.

On a completely separate note the crew (and I grudgingly include Luke Gamble in this category) were all given nicknames by the kids in the community. It started when they kept on chanting “Chucky! Chucky!” every time Marc walked past. When he asked them what they meant, he got the answer that they thought he was Chuck Norris. I never realised that I’ve been working with Chuck Norris. How lucky am I? Then they started going around the rest of the crew giving us names. So I’m hoping the credits will be listed as follows:

Marc “Chuck Norris” Rowedder
Adam “Rambo” Docker
Nathan “Bruce Lee” Carr
Luke “Jean Claude – the muscles from Brussels – Van Damme” Gamble

I somehow think that’s a bit long to put in the title though…

80s Music

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
22nd March, 2009
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Felt a bit rough today. Think the lack of sleep after the long flight, some dodgy food, dehydration and a combination of malaria tablets, five inoculations the week before and a cold that I never fully recovered from have added up to make me feel very tired. Another good day filming, although quite long – it took us over an hour to film a scene of Luke buying dog food for the three-legged dog that he saved on Friday.

We’re trying to think up names for the dog, which has made a great recovery. Adam wants to call her Diana, Luke wants something like Lucky or Hope in Malawian, but I personally think that she should be called a traditional Malawian canine name: Bruce. They’re all called Bruce, Tiger or Lion out here…

Oh spent a great evening at one of the charity organisers house eating a proper homemade meal and watching the Liver vs Aston game (Marc thinks football team names should be shortened to the beginning of the name???). The evening descended into an 80s music fest though – making me feel quite young amongst these 30 to 40 year-olds…

I’ve Touched Luke Gamble

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
23rd March, 2009
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Felt a lot better today. A good nights sleep was all that was needed and a dose of energy tablets from Luke. We spent the day filming in the local communities again working with cattle and livestock.

Great day and really felt like the LSPCA were doing some amazing work. We all got called our new martial arts nicknames again – these kids are crazy. Had a couple of dodgy moments today: Marc drove over someone’s sugar cane stall that was lying by the side of the road and felt the need to pay the owner for the damage he had caused. Big mistake. He then got hustled out of paying even more and all hell broke loose as kids ran in and stole sugar cane. It was pandemonium. Then we stopped about 500 yards down the road to do a piece to camera. Adam stepped out of the car holding the camera and didn’t realize that the sewer was right below him. He fell. The camera fell. And the matte box (the part on the front that holds the filters) broke off. All of them landed in the mud (I’m writing mud, but I believe it consisted of other more interesting substances). Adam was a bit bruised and smelly and the camera was fine.

On a last note: nobody is allowed to touch Luke “van Damme” Gamble. He doesn’t like it. But I’m pretty certain that I brushed past him when putting the radio mic on today…


Trouble for “The Talent”

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
24th March, 2009
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“The Talent”, previously known as Luke “Van Damme” Gamble, got into a bit of an x-rated situation today as he was forcibly abused by a baboon called Bruiser. I don’t want to go into details as it was pretty traumatizing for myself and I presume even worse for “The Talent”. But the baboon DEFINITELY touched him.

We also decided to film “The Talent’s” introduction scene to Lee from the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre despite the fact “The Talent” now has a sunny red tan and five days of bum fluff growth on his face. I’m sure the viewers won’t notice – probably because after sixty takes of extremely forced greetings the footage won’t be used…

Some Paul Simon Song

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
25th March, 2009
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What a great day. We visited Kasungu National Park so that Luke could meet Andr-ea (pronounced in a strange, very un-english, manner for some reason) who is a researcher in charge of collecting details of the baboons that have been released from the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre.

She is a quite extraordinary woman – living deep in the heart of the African bush with only Jane, a support researcher, as help (and companionship). At only 24 she is truly inspiring (we presumed she was this age through carefully working out the dates from what she said – we wouldn’t be as rude as to ask a question like that).

The day was long and although it took hours to find the baboons (I had pretty much resigned myself to not seeing them) we eventually found them with only 50 minutes of light left for filming. Part of the problem was the radio mics interfering with Andr-ea’s baboon tracking device.

To ingratiate yourself to the baboons the first thing to do when they approach is to turn your back on them. They then cling hold and groom you. This happened to me several times and was an absolutely amazing experience.

It was a long journey back through the dense forest and potholed roads in the pitch black (as an aside the stars were amazing). We got stuck in a muddy patch at one point, but somehow managed to free the car.

As a final note I have to highlight the remarkable durability of the rest of the crew. Adam amazingly lugged the heavy HD camera around for the seventh long-day in a row, Marc drove us home safely despite being as shattered as the rest of us and Luke kept his incessant talking going (as a method of keeping Marc awake). His attempt to sing a Paul Simon song will haunt me for many years…

Best Salesmen in the World

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
26th March, 2009
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My birthday. We took a long drive down to Lake Malawi and it was utterly worth it. We shot the intro to the programme from a boat on the lake as the sun died. It was beautiful.

Although we did get hustled by the crew of the boat who pulled out their collection of jewellery, and like the complete suckers that we are, we paid far too much for their touristy trash. Oh well… Still had an amazing birthday and a great fish meal for dinner.


by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
27th March, 2009
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It was another long day of filming this time at the Mua Mission – a very unusual place and not really my cup of tea at all. But the story needed covering and so we had to go. In the end it was interesting place and worth a visit – to see the animal cruelty in itself broke my heart and the rescue of the baboon and monkey was very worth while.

However there was some bad news from the day as Adam twisted his ankle. He’s holed up in bed with an ice pack. Hopefully we will still be able to finish the GVs and other stories that are planned for the final day tomorrow.

Looking forward to going home on Sunday. It’s been a great adventure, but pretty tired now…


by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Malawi
28th March, 2009
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As it says in the title: it’s a wrap.